Cheese, glorious cheese: Cheese Fondue and Raclette

Last week I went to a meeting in Switzerland, which is a great place for fans of cheese, chocolates and mountains, like me! Switzerland is particularly known for their tasty, yellow, semi-hard and hard cheeses made from cow’s milk, like Gruyère and Emmentaler. Two of their traditional dishes have cheese in the starring role: cheese fondue and raclette.


For raclette you basically melt cheese and use it to top potatoes, bread or whatever you like. There’s two ways to make it, the traditional way you’ll find in restaurants with a giant piece of cheese melting by a fire, and the simple way with a raclette grill to melt little trowels of cheese, which many people have in their homes.  Raclette itself is the name of the cheese, which typically comes in a big wheel. In Switzerland and France it’s also easy to find slices of cheese for making raclette at home.

The edge of the cheese is melted by the heat, and you scrape it off to eat it.

What was left of our cheese

A modern form of raclette: cheese in little trays. They also come in circular form.

A friend of ours got a camping raclette kit for her birthday, which we thought was a brilliant idea! You melt the cheese in a little tray using tealight candles.

Fondue on the other hand is a mix of melted cheese and wine in a pot, kept warm over a burner. Using fondue sticks you dip chunks of crusty bread into the melted cheese. It’s known for being rich and some people find it hard to digest, but it’s simply delicious. Apparently the alcohol helps with digestion.

Gruyère cheese is often used to make a fondue, and the traditional fondue recipe contains mostly cheese and wine, as in  this example. However, a long time ago my mom found a recipe for cheese fondue in a magazine, and this recipe also contained milk (probably to make it go a bit further, since Swiss cheese is expensive in South Africa). This not only makes the fondue a bit more budget-friendly, but also results in a lighter fondue that is easier on the digestive system. I like both versions, so I thought I’d share the recipe in case you want to try it.  Here it is:

Easy Cheese Fondue

62.5g butter    (1/4 cup)
62.5g flour      (1/4 cup)
375ml milk     (1 and 1/4 cup)
2 cloves garlic crushed
125ml dry white wine (1/2 cup)
12.5ml Kirsch (optional) (1 tablespoon)
200g strong cheese (the original recipe suggested a mix of mature cheddar and Gruyère. Extra cheese can be added if you prefer it richer)

Grate the cheese and crush the garlic. Melt the butter in a saucepan. In a jug or bowl, whisk the flour gradually into the milk. Add the milk mixture to the butter and stir until thickened and boiling. Remove from heat and stir in the garlic, wine, kirsch and cheese. Keep warm but do not re-boil or it will curdle. Serve with chunks of french loaf or other crusty white bread.

Bon appetit!

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